What It Was Like For Merle Dandridge To Play Marlene In HBO’s The Last Of Us And In The Original Game

Before Marlene, Dandridge was mostly a stage actor with some minor onscreen TV roles and voice-acting projects. Over the course of her career, she’s slowly become more comfortable in front of the camera — leading her to where she is now with this newest incarnation of Marlene. Dandridge, like Marlene at this stage of her life, is older, more physically trained, and comfortable in her own skin:

“I’ve had the great opportunity of maturing as an artist and then maturing in the physical so that I was even more appropriate to play her in front of the camera. And that my 10, 15 years of Broadway and voiceover work before meeting Marlene first, and then now 10 years in front of the camera and the television world, all those things conflated and met and combined and aligned to make this the appropriate fit right now.”

For Dandridge, despite her long-term attachments to the character, making sure that her performance as Marlene was not just a copy of how she originated the character was important. Especially with a brand new cast playing Joel (Pedro Pascal) and Ellie (Bella Ramsay), why waste the opportunity to bounce off of fresh faces? “[…] if you try to chase something or you try to walk in the truth of something in sentimentality, you’ll kill the inspiration on the vine [bouncing off Pascal’s Joel and Ramsey’s Ellie] was like fresh oxygen that reignited something different in this version of Marlene, which is steeped in all of the things that I had first infused her with.”

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